Album Review By Mick Hezemans
Ho99o9, pronounced Horror, is a hard band to pin down. Their release schedule has been Nothing if not prolific, since their debut release, the Mutant Freax EP, they’ve released three more EPs, two mix tapes, and their debut full-length, The United States Of Horror. Collaborating with 3Teeth and Ghostmane, luring Santigold producer Ian Longwell into the studio as their first full-time drummer, before recently replacing him with former Black Flag drummer Brandon Pertzborn in the studio and Billy Rhymer of Dillinger Escape Plan fame as their full-time touring skins-smasher. Over the course of their career, they’ve been famous for a harsh blend of 70s hardcore punk and new wave, glitchy hip hop. While there has been a tonne of heaviness on all their releases, they’ve never put out something that could be labeled as “metal”, until now. Kind of.
The New album Skin has all the trademarks you would expect from a typical Ho99o9 release, thrashy, fast-paced punk riffs, furious drumming, down-tempo hip hop breaks and ear-splitting glitches and twisted samples, but on the new album everything has been turned up to 11 and the result is a frantic listen that batters the ears, even when they’ve slowed the tempo and started rapping instead of screaming.
Prior to the album’s release, they dropped a video for the lead single “Bite My Face”, which features Corey Taylor of Slipknot/Stone Sour. The first half of the song is a catchy yet heavy metal track, with The OGM slow rapping the verses over sampled drums then Corey and Eaddy sharing shouting/screaming duties when the guitars and drums kick-off for the chorus. Good stuff but really not that far outside the norm but then in typical Ho99o9 fashion, shit gets weird. A quiet, loungey interlude only lasts for a few seconds before the drums and guitars are back, but this time, instead of fast-paced punk riffs, you get heavy as fuck chugs and the slowest of slow doom riffs. A long slow sludge fest that counterbalances the catchy sing-along of the chorus and goes on long enough that you can’t help but nod along at the least. A nice touch in the video was Corey in his Stone Sour mode for the start and masking up into no.9 for the ending.
One of Ho99o9’s best, and admittedly most used tricks, is finding a way to make two disparate styles of music blend together, and this song is a nice microcosm of what to expect. They’ve found a way to make old-school punk mesh with modern hip-hop/dubstep, and while that description may seem like enough to get a good idea of what sound like, it really needs to be heard.
Over the course of the album, they hit fast peaks on tracks like Lower Than Scum, a grindy blast fest full of pinch harmonics and machine-gun riffs, Battery Not Included, which includes a sample of an angry punk fan telling him he’ll fight them if they keep playing “techno” which then goes on to be a high BPM mix of drum and bass beats and screams, and Skinhead, which features fast punk sections, slow metal breakdowns, a lounge suit jazz riff and a spoken word ending, but also has songs like “SLO Bread”, “Limits” and “The World, The Flesh The Devil” wouldn’t be out of place on a Soundcloud album by a rapper with “Lil” at the start of their name of it wasn’t for all the distorted screams and off-beat time signatures.
Album closer “….Dead or Asleep” manages to keep its feet planted on both sides of the fence, starting off with distorted synths and clunky beats before building into a doom riff scream fest, and “Protect My Bitch part 2” is as close to a prog song as Ho99o9 have released so far, blending and building sections slowly rather harshly jumping back and forth as they usually do.
In the 8 years they’ve been around, they’ve managed to carve a niche for themselves and released a sizeable amount of music without re-treading the same ground too much, I always get a sense with each release that they’re trying to do something different than the others, this album leaning into a much more hi-fi sound than EP Horrors of 1999 and the punk sections on their debut album, or the more electronic “Cyber Cop (unauthorized mp3), I found it too at its most intense when it slows down and they throw in layers of synths, glitches, and samples, cos you know the craziness is coming. While it didn’t blow me out of my chair on the first listen like their debut did, it really grew on me over subsequent listens and I rate it as one of their stronger releases. If anything they put out could win over hard-core metal fans, this would be it. Overall a great album and worth a listen whether you’re a long-time fan or you’ve never heard them before. 8/10
LISTEN, CONNECT- https://ho99o9.lsnto.me/skin999